Grieving a sense of belonging

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Our regular blogger Emily writes an amazing piece about the grief of ‘home’ and a place you feel you belong.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog for Let’s Talk About Loss about losing my fertility to cancer, titled ‘A different kind of grief’. This time, I am writing about another different type of grief which you may not realise has a similar grieving process to bereavement.

A common misconception about grief is that it just refers to a loss brought on through death. A more accurate and inclusive definition from Grief Recovery is “the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behaviour.” We experience loss in all types of changes in life. Sadly, we rarely recognise the emotional process we go through in extreme changes as a grief process.

Leaving home

Moving is one of these big changes. I have moved twice within the past 10 months and each time stirred up so many emotions in me that confused me because they were as intense as the emotions I felt after losing my Dad and after losing my Grandad. While, both times, I was excited at being in a new environment and the prospect of the new chapter that moving would bring, I also felt an ache for life as I knew it, the comfort of the house that I had always called “home”.

Last June 2021, shortly after my 27th birthday, I finally moved out of my Mum’s house, where I had been living since finishing university, desperately trying to save for a place of my own, impeded by struggling to find work, serious illness and a pandemic. I was excited to finally be free, to be living my own life. However, at the same time, my Mum moved hundreds of miles away and all of a sudden, I felt this sense of abandonment that I hadn’t felt so strongly since my Dad passed away.

Where is home for me? Where do I belong?

I spent the next few months coping with feelings of not belonging, of wanting to leave my hometown and start again somewhere else. It was losing my Grandad at the start of December which prompted me to do just that. Just over a month later, I moved to Rochester, where I work and live at a boarding school.

Missing ‘home’ and making a new ‘home’

This move, too, has made me feel a whole spectrum of emotions. I sometimes miss Reading – the town I grew up in and came back to after university, but Reading hadn’t felt like “home” since my Mum moved. It was a colleague asking the question “where do you call home?” that really made me reflect. In fact, the question floored me. Because I didn’t know. I still don’t know. Where is home for me? Where do I belong? While I am certainly happy in my job and living at work, I don’t have a permanent home. I go where I find work. Do I really belong anywhere? That in itself has had me feeling quite detached and confused.

In the past 10 months, my life has changed so much, and my sense of belonging anywhere has diminished. It’s taken me a while to accept that these feelings are completely rational and valid, as big life changes do come with an emotional response. At the same time, how do I find where I truly belong? Will I ever feel at home anywhere?

Emily Maybanks

In her blog, Emily mentions the Grief Recovery method, an evidence based programme to help you move through grief. Find out more about it here. Check out our MEET UP pages to find our grief support groups all over the UK.